Columns as memory crutches

March 22, 2011

On Sunday night, Liz and Phil and I watched Marley & Me, a movie based on the book by journalist John Grogan. Not being a dog person, I was moved most by the moments where, as the family dog ages and then dies, Grogan’s family flips through his old columns about the dog to relive the good times. My dad was also a journalist, with his own stash of columns about family life, to which I still return occasionally.

On Monday I had surgery. Several months of physical therapy has not proven that efficacious for my insertional Achilles tendinopathy, so my Haglund’s deformity, often called a “pump bump,” was shaved down, and some soft tissue between the bone and tendon was scraped away. I will be on crutches for two weeks and will not do any running in the next three months.

Using crutches has not been that fun. The reason I thought it might be fun is that, when my sister was six years old, she walked around with crutches as a form of recreation. She was perfectly healthy; she just liked pretending to be injured. I wouldn’t be able to recall any of the details, except that my dad wrote a column that immortalized her affectation. What a nice treat to be able to travel back in time and laugh about it all over again!

* * * * * * *

The Smells Of Christmas Just Past
By Jack Crowther
[from the Rutland Herald — December 30, 1982]

The day after Christmas our daughter was hobbling around the back yard on crutches.

Poor thing, you’re saying, the holidays spoiled by an accident.

Not so. Her femurs were fine, her tibias true, her metatarsals more than capable of carrying her around the green squishy lawn.

Fact was, she wanted to hobble around the yard on crutches, despite the lack of a suitable injury. Despite, further, the absence of real crutches. She had to find a couple of forked sticks to serve the purpose.

Inside were a Fashion Jeans Barbie Doll, twirling baton, puppy purse, toy organ and other ingenious products of human manufacture. But there she was, little more than 24 hours after ripping the paper from her presents, preferring the fantasy of a gimpy gam.

Actually, she had started out by using the baton as a cane. Oh, she twirled some. But it also performed nicely as a cane, until the light steel tubing collapsed under her weight.

Then she had an L-shaped baton. Trying to put a good light on keen disappointment, she noted that at least “L” was her favorite letter. After that she had to use sticks for her lame game.

Her friend came over to play and they both hobbled around on one crutch. Pretend broken legs must be contagious.

The forked sticks were easy to find. The winter hasn’t left much snow yet, but precipitation of sticks appears to be keeping up with the seasonal average.

The above was really just a sidelight of our Christmas, however. The essence of the celebration was a smoked ham, the centerpiece of the holiday meal. Writing this on the 27th — wait, let me go check. Yes, I have just been out to the kitchen and can report that the smell is still there.

My wife’s hair even smelled of smoked ham, and that led to the only real injury of the holiday. We were asleep Christmas night after the day’s excitement and ample evening meal. But I must have worked up an appetite by about 3 a.m. when I rolled over in my sleep and smelled smoked ham on the neighboring pillow. A Pavlovian reflex evidently set my jaws in motion, and my teeth seized on my wife’s ear.

Fortunately her scream woke us both up before any serious damage was done.

So much for the smells of Christmas. The sounds ranged from the fervency of John Cougar’s “Hurts So Good” to the inspiration of the “Hallelujah Chorus” to a halting “Farmer in the Dell.”

Our son likes Cougar and had asked for and received his album. Whether a 9-year-old can comprehend the substance of “Come on baby, make it hurt so good/Sometimes love don’t feel like it should” is doubtful. A friend of his once referred to the hit song “Centerfold” as “Center Pole.” But some elemental link in the music seems to bridge the gap in understanding.

My own musical preference on Christmas Day was for “The Farmer in the Dell,” which I played 18 times on the toy organ, the song being the shortest in the book that came with the organ. In case you don’t know it, it goes like this: 1 4 4 4 4 4 5 6 6 6 6 6 8 8 9 8 6 4 5 6 6 5 5 4.

No one applauded my playing, perhaps because Christmas is a time for giving. In “The Farmer in the Dell,” you recall, everyone takes — the farmer take the wife, the wife takes the child, and so on — except the cheese, which stands alone.

For Christmas dinner, I set aside the organ, since I couldn’t very well play — not even “Farmer in the Dell” — and eat at the same time. Our song voted for John Cougar. In the boy’s favor, the song, “Can You Really Take It (All the Way Down)” does seem to suggest the digestive process.

But my wife and I voted for Christmas carols, and carols it was.

And that was Christmas, still a smell but now just memory of sights and sounds, all mostly pleasant. And the mark is nearly gone from my wife’s ear.


  1. good luck on the recovery…sounds like you'll be back just in time to pace me through the final 45 miles of white river.

  2. Sorry to hear about your crutches status, Greg- but I hope this surgery proves to be an effective solution. I wish you a speedy recovery. Thanks for sharing your dad's column too- what a cool archive to have- he's a great writer!

  3. Wow – sorry to hear of your need for surgery. Hope you "heel" quickly. 😉

  4. Greg,Just be glad you're young and healthy and fit. You'll recover from the surgery MUCH faster than others not in your condition would have.Best Wishes, and Good Luck.Bob

  5. Wow.I was trolling your blog, looking for advice about blistering on longer (long-ish) runs. I didn't expect a blast from the past.I always loved your Dad's columns and – by extension – the Sunday Herald. It's so great that you have an archive.I remember one where he waxed philosophic about sleeping with his mouth open, and the one about not leaving written phone messages on the refrigerator indefinitely.Really sorry to hear that you're laid up for a while. Just remember, only the cheese stands alone.The cheese stands alone, indeed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: